France has postponed the May 30 ‘peace initiative’ conference scheduled to be held in Paris, due to a “scheduling problem” with the United States. Although the conference is intended to work on the knotty issues facing final status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, neither party is invited to attend the conference.
However, Secretary of State John Kerry informed France he too would be unable to attend due to “scheduling conflicts.”
President Francois Hollande made the announcement Tuesday on French radio, saying that because Kerry “cannot come on May 30… it has been delayed. It will take place in the summer.”
Hollande explained his country must take “a strong initiative” in the dispute, else “what will happen? Settlement building, attacks.”
French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault visited Jerusalem and Ramallah this past Sunday to discuss the French initiative with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas.
Netanyahu made it clear that Israel has no interest in any multilateral “peace initiative” as they are simply ineffective. He is perfectly willing, he said, to engage in direct talks with Abbas “anywhere at any time.”
Moreover, Netanyahu bluntly said the impartiality of France was questionable at best following its support for the UNESCO resolution that removed the mention of any historic Jewish ties to Jerusalem, the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. The resolution also referred to Israel as an “occupying power” and the Old City of Jerusalem as “occupied.”
The United States has continued to support Israel in its determination to return to direct negotiations with the PA, as set forth in the internationally-recognized Oslo Accords.
“We’re in discussions right now with the French about any possible alternative date that might better work for the secretary,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said Monday. He added, however, that Kerry’s agenda is “jammed.”Hana Levi Julian